Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

Culture is a treasure: dont fight it

One of the great temptations for an alchemist and innovator is the inherent values and skill sets that come packaged along in the deal with that elusive elastic ever growing human aspect called "culture"

The way we make our hearth, the clarity of our water source, the security of our planted foods are all things which affect this culture however they do not define it. The growing evidence and richness of the leapback effect, the result of leapfrogging of communities through modern development which allows mobile phones before landlines, text messages before flush toilets allows for a new type of innovation. As the ubiquitous technologies like bicycles and mobilephones slowly transform our landscape far beyond our imaginations borders the richness and generosity of culture which is a beacon because hidden there is a transformative principle for all of us.

In the West it is more common to replace rather than reuse, it is not very common at all to fabricate. Fabricate is just what William Kamkwamba a member of "The Doers Club" in Africa did when he constructed a windmill in order to generate electricity for his family undergoing a drought in Malawi. because of this drought Kwakwamba was forced to leave secondary school, however he took the knowledge he had gained so far and using a local library in six months he had transformed his families life even creating an irrigation system allowing them to grow produce year round with wind generated power a feat he details in his book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

Culture includes simple pleasures and practices as well as types of determination and methods and strategies of improvisation. Every day, I love to drink tea like many people in the world. Years ago when I experimented with solar ovens I was very disappointed at how hard it is to make a decent cup of tea compared to the simplicity of the act using a regular stove. The work of Samuel Mwaura caught my eye right away because it involved two things I really care about: tea and mobile phones. In order to brew tea properly it must be heated very hot much hotter than a coffee maker or a solar cooker. Mwara adapted a deep fry cooker to the task of heating the water, solving a great mystery for the home tea automation market. Additionally there are containers which dispense the milk and tea leaves correctly using the system which responds to his mobile phone. Depending on how many times he calls his home phone his "motherboard" device will unlock doors, turn on lights and even make tea in anticipation of his arrival from the bus stop. The largely mechanical switches and workings of his "motherboard" reflect his training as an electrician,

A self contained solar powered radio station fabricated from locally resourced parts is the result of the effort of the three African engineers featured in AfriGadget . The radio station project is a good example of how materials and resources as well as information are part of this cultural treasure trove that we all carry within us. When we combine the elements of cultural perspective with visionary innovation... thats where the genii meets the lamp and new realities emerge. We have specific to our situation and our own surroundings a unique set of information and action related stories and ideas that we carry and first fabricate within us. It might take awhile to uncover some of these special insights and talents and it might take even longer to develop them to the point of fabrication however I am certain that this is the most important thing any of you can set out to achieve and Evoke!

Views: 25

Comment by Gregory Walek on March 4, 2010 at 3:51am
Excellent post. I gave you spark because the manner you gathered the information should give people a better understanding of how to go about making change without making changes they cannot do.
Comment by Elizabeth Merritt on March 5, 2010 at 1:08am
" We have specific to our situation and our own surroundings a unique set of information and action related stories and ideas that we carry and first fabricate within us." I think that is why it is challenging to create a workable innovative solution to other people's problems (it is extremely difficult to understand the "specifics" of the situation, and the constraints, including cultural constraints) and at the same time extremely powerful to try (because you bring a different set of stories and ideas to the problem, and may see fresh possibilities.) I gave you a +1 Spark for provoking thought. Thank you!
Comment by Ian Tuck on March 5, 2010 at 4:07am
Posts like these are what's going to keep my interest going in Evoke. I've been reading a number of intriguing posts talking about technology helping to define culture. I'm interested to see how we can start to think about using more traditional characteristicsof culture (say, art) as levers for change.

Please keep developing your ideas. It's going to be an interesting 12 weeks.
Comment by Monica Toth on March 5, 2010 at 5:37am
Oh, what a dream to have tea steaming in the kitchen when I get off my bike! I'm going to read Mwaura's work very closely, and thank you for sharing him.

I know we think of these innovations as specific to the developing world, but I think we have a lot to learn as well. Electricity is like oxygen for you and me; we barely have to think about it. I'd like to help promote a more deliberate, self-aware system of using energy. Hacks like these can get us started.
Comment by John D. Boyden on March 6, 2010 at 8:21pm
+1 knowledge share. Excellent stories. Good links, adding to my growing stash of urls :)
Comment by Amos Meeks on March 7, 2010 at 12:42am
It sounds like you're pretty into making and fabrication. I'm trying to create a sort of Maker's Network for EVOKE, and I think you might be interested. Check it out: http://www.urgentevoke.com/profiles/blogs/makers-guild
Comment by Sylvain Ratelle on March 15, 2010 at 1:54am
Cattavery, thanks for sharing your experience with us, I will continue to follow you, talk to you soon


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